Stagolee Lyrics (Anonymous), Three Versions


Version 1

"Stagger Lee" as Performed by Lloyd Price

The legend of Stagolee has some basis in fact.

From Wikipedia:

A story appearing in the St. Louis, Missouri Globe-Democrat in 1895 read:

William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Shelton, a carriage driver. Lyons and Shelton were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Shelton's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Shelton withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Shelton took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Shelton is also known as "Stagger" Lee.
Lyons eventually died of his injuries. Shelton was tried, convicted, and served prison time for this crime. This otherwise unmemorable crime is remembered in a song. In some older versions of the song, the name of the other party is given as "Billy Deslile" or "De Lion."
Also known as Stagalee, Staggerlee, Stacker Lee, Stack O'Lee, or Stagger Lee, Stagolee is one of the most famous folktales and American ballads, which exists in many different versions, including the following:

Version 2

It was early, early one mornin',
When I heard my bulldog bark,
Stagolee and Billy Lyons
Was squabblin' in the dark.

Stagolee told Billy Lyons,
'What do you think of that?
You win all my money, Billy,
Now you spit in my Stetson hat.'

Stagolee, he went a-walkin'
In the red-hot, broilin' sun—
Says, 'Bring me my six-shooter,
Lawd, I wants my forty-one.'

Stagolee, he went a-walkin'
Through the mud and through the sand.
Says, 'I feel mistreated this mornin',
I could kill most any man.'

Billy Lyons told Stagolee,
Please don't take my life,
I've got three little helpless chillun
And one poor, pitiful wife.'

'Don't care nothin' about your chillun,
And nothin' about your wife,
You done mistreated me, Billy,
And I'm bound to take your life.'

He shot him three times in the shoulder,
Lawd, and three times in the side,
Well, the last time he shot him
Cause Billy Lyons to die.

Stagolee told Mrs Billy,
'You don't believe yo' man is dead;
Come into the bar-room,
See the hole I shot in his head.'

The high sheriff told the deputies,
Get your pistols and come with me.
We got to go 'rest that
Bad man Stagolee.'

The deputies took their pistols
And they laid them on the shelf—
If you want that bad man Stagolee,
Go 'rest him by yourself.'

High sheriff ask the bartender,
'Who can that bad man be?'
'Speak softly,' said the bartender,
It's that bad man Stagolee.'

He touch Stack on the shoulder,
Say, 'Stack, why don't you run?'
'I don't run, white folks,
When I got my forty-one.'

The hangman put the mask on,
Tied his hands behind his back,
Sprung the trap on Stagolee
But his neck refuse to crack.

Hangman, he got frightened,
Said, 'Chief, you see how it be—
I can't hang this man,
Better set him free.'

Three hundred dollar funeral,
Thousand dollar hearse,
Satisfaction undertaker
Put Stack six feet in the earth.

Stagolee, he told the Devil,
Says, 'Come on and have some Fun—
You stick me with your pitchfork,
I'll shoot you with my forty-one.'

Stagolee took the pitchfork,
And he laid it on the shelf.
Says, 'Stand back, Tom Devil,
I'm gonna rule Hell by myself.'

Version 3

O Mr Police Officer,
How can it be,
You arrest everybody
But cruel Staggerlee,
That bad man,
O Cruel Staggerlee.

Billy Lyons told Staggerlee
Please don't take my life
Says I gotten two little babes
And a darling loving wife.
He's a bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

What I care about your two babes
And darling loving wife
Said you done stole my stetson hat
I bound to take your life.
He's a bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

Oh Ho O Home
With a forty-four
With his eyes wide open
He's lying down on the floor
That bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

Gentlemen of the jury,
What do you think of that?
Said Staggerlee killed Billy Lyons
For a five-dollar Stetson hat.
He's a bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

Standing on the gallows
Staggerlee he cursed
The judge said Let's kill him
'fore he kills some of us
He's a bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

Standing on the gallows
Hanging up high
At 12 o'clock they killed him
We was all glad to see him die.
He's a bad man
O Cruel Staggerlee

O Mr Officer,
How can it be,
You can arrest everybody
But cruel Staggerlee,
That bad man,
O Cruel Staggerlee.


Circa 1870

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